A New View of Crime and Punishment

  • We live at a time and in a world in which crime is all around us.
  • Who can we blame for all of this crime?
  • Can we blame negligent parents?

Whether we live in poor areas or more affluent environments, we are all affected by the crime around us and the fear it engenders in all of us. Long ago people viewed crime in a more simplistic way. There were good people and bad people and the bad people needed to be punished and crime would then disappear. That has not happened. When criminals are punished they do not ordinarily stop being criminals.

Covering all 50 states, the MomsRising Team is unified by a mission of increasing family economic security, decreasing discrimination, and building a nation where both businesses and families can thrive.

New information has taught us about the relationship between cause and effect. There is still a dialogue going on about nurture versus nature, but no authority will deny that poverty, environment or bad parenting play a large role in producing individuals who have lost any hope that they can survive as productive citizens of our society. It is also very easy for young people to get caught up in the current drug culture and make serious mistakes that can have lasting consequences in their lives. For various reasons, minorities are at particular risk in our culture. These early mistakes must not be allowed to ruin our young people’s entire lives. Our laws must begin to reflect the reality of the lives that young people are exposed to and treat these young offenders with understanding and compassion.

According to Moms Rising, a social justice organization,” the United States, on any given day, incarcerates nearly 60,000 young people under age 18 in jails and prisons. Even worse is that approximately 250,000 of them are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults, and around 10,000 juveniles are housed in adult jails and prisons – 7,500 in jails and 2,700 in prisons, respectively. Most kids held in adult jails are awaiting trial, though as many as half of them will not be convicted or will be sent back to the juvenile justice system.”

Current statistic tell us that, it costs an average of $33,000 a year to keep one prisoner in jail. How much better it would be to spend that money on preventative measures like better counseling, better recreational facilities, better parenting classes and better job training programs for young people who are at risk.

The US has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. In 2016 in the US, there were 655 people incarcerated per 100,000 population. This is the US incarceration rate for adults or people tried as adults. Prison, parole, and probation operations generate an $81 billion annual cost to U.S. taxpayers, while police and court costs, bail bond fees, and prison phone fees generate another $100 billion in costs that are paid by individuals.

For those people who are already in prison and will one day be paroled, wouldn’t it be wiser to give them counseling and job training and get them ready to live productively instead of warehousing and punishing them and then throwing them back on the streets to become a danger to us again?

We must first change our own view of these vulnerable people in our society. They are people who, because of the difficult circumstances of their lives, are not able to make a living, who cannot control their emotions or who feel a sense of hopelessness. Instead of taking revenge, we must begin to find the cure for this disease and treat this like any other chronic illness with tolerance and understanding and wise life-changing programs.

There have been recent debates by our lawmakers about how we can go about reforming our prison system. There are individuals and advocate groups who now are questioning the wisdom of a privately run prison system that has profits as their motive rather than rehabilitation. There are citizens who are questioning why minor crimes like marijuana possession can have such long prison terms and why a disproportionate number of people in our prisons are people of color.

By starting to question our past actions and voting for more compassionate and responsive lawmakers, we will be able to begin to make necessary changes in our prison system and we will perhaps also begin to make some inroads on the problems of crime, drug addiction, family violence and insure a future of healthier families, safer communities and ultimately more hope for us all.

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June Stepansky

June Stepansky is a published writer and poet who writes books and articles about happiness, self-improvement and social and political issues

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